biotech startup marketing

You’ve leveraged your biotech experience to indentify a great opportunity to start a company. Your challenges are many, and they include raising capital, building strategic partnerships, recruiting, R & D, motivating and retaining top scientific talent, compliance with regulations, manufacturing, sales and marketing, and reimbursement to name a few. Marketing challenges are the focus of this article. I’m going to identify some common marketing challenges for biotech startups and then I’m going to talk about solutions to those challenges.

So let’s talk about marketing challenges. According to a study from the Kellogg School of Management, using an approach that included a combination of interviews with bio-entrepreneurs and research using industry journals, business databases, and newspaper articles, there appears to be a common and fundamental challenge with marketing in the early stages of a biotech startup. “Unlike funding, where most people agree on its importance to the success or even survival of the biotech startups, the understandings of the marketer’s role in the company are often mixed. Because most of the small biotech companies are founded and managed by scientists, marketing is often introduced late, ‘as if the marketer’s role only becomes important once there is a product available for sale’ ”.

Within the broad context of early adoption, the Kellogg study then identifies a few specific marketing challenges.

1. A lack of marketing involvement early in the process could negatively impact the ability of decision makers to assess market potential and commercial viability to guide investment decisions.

2. When marketing is not involved with the clinical trial design process, end points of the trials may not be commercially meaningful.

3. If scientific messages are not aligned with the commercial messages early in the pre-market process, the startup could have problems with a successful launch.

4. If scientists and management don’t start communicating the potential value of a product at conferences, seminars, and through scientific publications before the product launch, they may not be able to attract key opinion leaders early enough to build a successful launch.

One additional marketing challenge, not closely related to early adoption, was also covered in the study. Since most small biotech companies compete in niche markets for less-populated diseases, they face a unique challenge of how to be effective on a more focused, “targeted” marketing.

In Part 2 of this article, I will talk about solutions to these marketing challenges.

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